A soundless sneeze echoed through the farmhouse. Loriwen sniffled to herself, rubbing her nose with a sleeve. It was warm, but her Grams insisted she stay under the covers. Best way to get rid of a sickness is to stay in bed, she said. So Lori stayed, miserable, overheated, and constantly coughing.
A well-trimmed mop of red hair with gray speckled throughout it trotted through the doorway, Rojer beneath it with worried eyes. “Hey, pumpkin.” He kneeled down on the floor, sitting on his heels. Running his hand through his daughter’s sweat-soaked hair, he felt her forehead. Burning up still. He frowned. “Here, I got this for you.” Pulling a large bottle of medicine from his pouch, he grabbed the spoon that was in her tea.
Loriwen shook her head, making a scrunched frowning face. Covering her feverishly flushed face, she made it very clear she was not interested in taking the awful medicine.
“Pumpkin, please. If you take it now, you’ll feel better later. Don’t you want to feel better on your birthday?” Rojer pleaded softly with his daughter, holding the spoon carefully.
The small girl relented a little, but still didn’t open her mouth.
“I’ll ask Grams to give it to you instead.”
That straw broke the girl’s back, and she opened her mouth reluctantly. Making a rather funny face, she eventually swallowed the medicine, it tasting even worse than she had feared. Loriwen looked to her father sadly, pointing to her throat.
“I know, I know.. this medicine is supposed to make it all better. You’ll be able to talk soon, I promise.” He patted her hand, smiling sadly. “It’s just a touch of sickness, you’ll get your lovely little voice back soon.”
Unable to speak but understanding, she settled down into bed sadly. The sight about broke Rojer’s heart. He smiled and ran his fingers through her hair again. “Loriwen, let’s make a promise. We’ll always be together on our birthdays, even in silence and without cake.”
Loriwen’s eyes sparkled once again, nodding slowly. She held out her hand with a weak smile. Rojer put on as happy a smile as he could muster, giving her a hand shake.
Eleven years later, now a grown woman, Loriwen Snowberry found herself in the opposite position. Kneeling in the same pose, she sat next to her father’s bed. Wringing a rag in cold water, she placed it on her father’s forehead quietly. After a long time of silence, she reached up and held his hand. Never a good liar, she cleared her throat and managed to choke one sentence out. “Everything is going to be alright, Dad.”
Rojer’s head shook quietly, more gray than red strands falling into his face. A small, sad smile was plastered on his face. He brought his hand up to his daughter’s face, weakly poking her nose.
Loriwen’s eyes began to fill up with tears. “You have to be here for my birthday. We promised. We’ll always be together on our birthdays, even in silence and without cake.”
A raspy, thin wafer of a voice wafted into the air. “We always will. Visit me?” Rojer winced at the talking, lapsing back into silence. His own face had tears running down it.
She nodded slowly, her voice cracking with barely contained emotion. “I promise.” Her lips quivered as she attempted to hold back the tears practically brimming over.
He nodded slowly, lifting his hand to touch her cheek as he gave his daughter one last weak smile before slowly closing his lids.
Unable to contain herself anymore, Loriwen threw her head into the bedspread and sobbed.